Tuesday, 7 May 2013

North v South; its grim oop north

This post contains several clips you can use for practice analysis

In any exam extract you're always initially looking for a binary [Levi-Strauss] around which dramatic tension can be built.
Its worth also stressing that you're not just looking for stereotypes but also looking out for countertypes too.
The best exam answers will be able to highlight elements of both in (most examples of) representations - providing you with opportunities to apply some theories/theorists on representation.

The north-south binary is the basic one to look out for, but there are many very distinct regional identities that don't necessarily reflect this: Geordie/Mackem, Scouse, Brummie/Black Country, Bristolian/Cornwall [SW] + Norfolk/E. Anglia [SE] (aha!), Essex, Manc/Lancs, Yorkshire, Cockney, plus London and the SE. There are also national identities of the 4 UK nations.

The northern stereotype is both negative (bleak industrial grim landscape; backwards; poor) and positive (friendly), with aspects such as rural arguable either way.
Likewise, the southern stereotype may include positive attributes of wealth, refinement, beautiful landscape etc, but also haughtiness, aloofness, avarice (greed and obsession with money), lack of community bonds (individualism). Notably, the Cockney stereotype has more in common with the Northern stereotype, with social class arguably the key.

Social class is rarely far from the surface when considering regional identity, with the 'poor' element of the stereotype often to the fore, and this in turn linked in with crassness or lack of refinement, as this ironic 1992 ad for a beer associated with Manchester demonstrates:

Less ironically, more in a brazen way to maximise commercial appeal, UK film companies such as Working Title will often to resort to crude regional stereotypes (see Notting Hill's Spike, or the Scottish character in Wild Child - or the whole of Hot Fuzz!).

Like all of our media (setting aside issues of globalisation), TV is dominated by London-based companies, arguably fuelling the use of regional stereotypes. ITV used to be made up of separate, independent regional companies, but these (UTV aside) are now all owned by a London-based conglomerate (who recently closed production facilities in Leeds, a sign of production moving away from the North?).

Here are a few examples we can consider; 1+2 are of a type you might get in the exam, 3 onwards simply to get you thinking about the concept:

1: Doc Martin
In which our protagonist finds himself amidst backwards non-London types.
Note how he reacts favourably to one lady with a refined accent and bearing, highly suggestive of upper-middle class social status, and talks down to the idiot locals. He is, of course, efficient and, crucially, modern - this backwards place still has a rural identity.

2: North and South
In which we get a slice of representation with a Bronte feel (though arguably slightly 'Dickensian' as well?). The opening female character vocalises much of the prevailing stereotype of the North. We also get a scene with overtones of Eisenstein's archetype of cross-cutting, Battleship Potemkin, though here the ideological message is one of individualism (the southern belle is framed as an individual in contrast to the menacing masses of the northerners who surround her).

3: I Didn't Know You Cared
This comes from a past era (1973), but showcases the dour, bleak stereotype that some in Yorkshire look on as a positive part of their cultural identity. The humour is as dark as the coalmines that once dotted the area. We also see a tension between a puritanical streak (from ladies seeking to present themselves as of an elevated social class) and crudeness (from men not concerned with pretending to be other than plain, working-class).

4: Auf Widersehen Pet
In which we get an assemblage of regional identities, though all linked by social (working) class. The Brummie is the clown of the piece, though the giant Geordie Oz isn't so far behind. Southerner Wayne may be a Cockney, but he carries the glamour crown. The Scouser is a criminal.

5: Auf Widersehen Pet
Same gang, this time though the binary with a snobbish southerner leads the drama, not to mention Oz's revelry with a posh lady.

Any suggestions of useful clips?
Pass on as a comment below.

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